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Can I Be Emotionally Healthy if My Partner Isn’t?

April 16, 2021

By Christa Banister

What looks like support to one person may look different to another, so asking questions specific to the situation can be helpful.

Whether it’s watching one too many romantic comedies or taking your cues from someone in a seemingly “perfect” relationship, it’s easy to get the wrong idea of what role your significant other is meant to play in your emotional health and wellbeing.

No doubt, a loving partner should be there to listen, support you, and encourage you. But when the expectation is elevated to the level of fully meeting someone’s emotional needs, that’s the proverbial bridge too far.

Despite the seemingly feel-good sentiment, one person isn’t meant to “complete” another. If you are feeling empty or depleted, you can’t expect someone else, even the most important person in your life, to fill that space. It’s too much of a burden for anyone else’s shoulders. The general consensus of marriage counselors and psychology experts is that you — and only you — can be responsible for satisfying your own emotional needs.

So, what does it take to be emotionally healthy? And how do you maintain that balance when your partner isn’t in the same place or emotionally unavailable?

What Does Emotional Health Look Like?

Emotional health is an integral part of a person’s total health. When you are fit from an emotional standpoint, you will exhibit several characteristics, including:

Despite the seemingly feel-good sentiment, one person isn’t meant to “complete” another.

    • A high level of emotional intelligence, enabling you to manage interpersonal relationships with empathy
    • Awareness of your own emotions
    • Ability to cope with life’s challenges and keep them in perspective
    • Healthy self-esteem
    • Resilience after setbacks
    • Healthy boundaries in relationships with friends and family

It’s important to note that being emotionally healthy doesn’t mean you’ve got a smile permanently plastered on your face and are happy 24/7. Simply pretending that everything is okay when it’s not can easily morph into something else unhealthy, namely toxic positivity.

In stark contrast to toxic positivity, when you are emotionally healthy, awareness is key. You may have feelings of stress, anger, sadness, but you have found healthy coping mechanisms to employ when these moments arise. And when there’s a situation that’s too much to bear? You recognize this, too, and seek out help.

Maintaining Your Emotional Health When Your Partner Isn’t

A fascinating trait of many humans is how we can become emotional chameleons of sorts by taking on the emotions of people in our orbit.

Those who’ve researched this phenomenon of “catching” someone else’s feelings refer to it as “emotional contagion.” Without even thinking about it, we can feel emotions — and even act on them — based on another person’s facial expressions or body language, according to findings published in the Harvard Business Review.

Not surprisingly, the emotions of those closest to us are some of the easiest to “catch.” If your partner is in a particularly bad mood or going through a rough time for days on end, chances are, it’ll affect you, too.

Opening Up Roadblocks to True Intimacy - Rio Retreat Center

When your partner isn’t a good place, prioritizing your emotional health is particularly important. Notice how you’re feeling. Is your jaw clenched? Is your heart rate elevated? Do you feel tightness in your chest or noticeable agitation? Taking note of these cues can better help you manage your emotional responses before they become overwhelming.

Acknowledging and accepting your feelings is also helpful. If your partner is venting about their horrible, no-good job again, raising their voice in the process, it’s helpful to remind yourself that your corresponding feelings are perfectly normal. Expected, even.

Finding a way to offer support without taking on their negative feelings is key. What looks like support to one person may look different to another, so asking questions specific to the situation can be helpful.

Above all, the best way to care for someone you love, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health, is to care for yourself. It’s never selfish to make your emotional health a priority, especially when you’re navigating difficult junctures of a relationship.

Opening Up Roadblocks to True Intimacy

If you or someone you love has struggled with trauma in the past or present, negative beliefs, or cultural messaging that may have impacted your ability to connect in a relationship in a healthy way, consider attending our Women’s Intimacy Recovery Workshop. In a safe, supportive setting, women can explore the unhealthy sexual patterns and behaviors that can be roadblocks to true intimacy. We would love to assist you on the journey to becoming emotionally healthy.